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The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World Paperback – January 5, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
Weiner's quest here is to find a place and conditions that might cheer him up. He apparently considers only slightly the fact that any place he goes, he takes his unhappy self with him. The sub-title, One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World, sets the stage.
Can the conditions of place cause or at least contribute to happiness? My personal experience and letters from readers says yes. I confined my search to the contiguous 48 states; travelholic Weiner takes us to nine more countries.
First to The Netherlands and the World Database of Happiness to learn what Ruut Veenhoven, "the godfather of happiness research" knows. On to Switzerland, where the natives feel more than contentment but less than joy. Thence to Bhutan, where the king has proclaimed Gross National Happiness; Qatar, where each new husband gets a $7,000 monthly allowance, a building lot and a no-interest home loan; Iceland, where we learn that colder is happier; Moldova, "the least happy nation on the planet" according to Veenhoven's data; Thailand, where keeping the long view of life creates much joking and laughter; Great Britain, where culture hinders happiness; India, a destination happy place; and then back home to Miami, where all that sunshine leaves our author cold.
We learn that money wealth gives but a small edge.Read more ›
Two tiny countries offer a brilliant contrast in the principles that Weiner set out to examine. Qatar and Bhutan are relatively hard to reach. Both have inhospitable climates and a low population. Both have been altered greatly in very recent history, allowing for radical changes in the lifestyle of the citizenry.
Qatar is a pile of sand somewhere in the Middle East that became an earthly Eden when oil and natural gas were discovered there in such vast plentitude as to make work, for its extended family of Arabic inhabitants, obsolete. A Qatari will be paid to attend school, paid to marry, given a house and allowed to carelessly wreck as many cars as he sees fit. Rules no longer apply to the people of Qatar, in a broad sense, as long as they obey the dictates of their Islamic religion and stay inside, living within the bizarre hierarchy that dictates their society --- indoors because it is not possible to live very long without air conditioning in Qatar, which is basically a series of connected malls and mansions, and hierarchical because, of course, Qataris cannot do their own work. For that they import Indians, Nepalis and other lesser races.
These strictures made it difficult for Weiner to do what a journalist must do: interview the natives of the country. He was told that his American passport and Jewish name would prevent him from meeting real Qataris. So to experience the country, he had to be content with talking to expatriates and buying one "Ridiculously Expensive Pen.Read more ›
Weiner has a lovely turn of phrase (reminiscent of Bill Bryson) and although The Geography of Bliss wasn't as laugh-out-loud funny as I expected (more dryly amusing), it is both immensely readable and packed to the gills with fascinating nuggets of information. Weiner visits two countries that I have spent considerable time in (India and Switzerland), and while I felt his observations of Switzerland were pretty much spot on, I felt that he only scratched the surface of India, a country which I consider to be particularly complex. But I loved his description of Slough in England (the location for the UK TV show "The Office") as "a showpiece of quiet desperation" and I now have even less desire than ever before to visit Moldava which sounds like a hideously depressing place.
Ultimately there are no major revelations in this book - essentially, his argument is that happiness means different things to different people - but it makes for easy, thought-provoking reading. I enjoyed it.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I think this is the best book that I have ever read. Seriously. Don't think twice about buying it.
I don't cry and this book made me tear up one minute and laugh out... Read more
This book was a joy to read with fun writing style and valuable insight into the human condition and the not so secret sources of happiness. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Diana H. Landry
I wasn't able to get too far into the book. I started reading it right out of the packaging and I noticed a small white spider.Published 13 days ago by gabygab
Package came way before the expected delivery date, and was in a good condition. The price was hard to beat, I'd buy this again.Published 1 month ago by Ashlynne
Fun, easy read. Interesting information about other cultures and their outlook on life and happiness. Definitely recommend!Published 1 month ago by AW
In The Geography of Bliss reporter and foreign correspondent Eric Wiener examines ten countries in an effort to determine which ones are the happiest and why. Read morePublished 1 month ago by John Martin
This book was both enlightening and hilarious...a rare combination! I laughed out loud many times throughout the book. My husband kept asking "Why are you laughing? Read morePublished 1 month ago by KathyJ